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‘Enough is enough’: Ending my dependence on painkillers

Mark Raeker says HealthPartners made getting off pain pills and through painkiller withdrawal possible

My story is probably similar to stories from all over the country, but it really doesn’t have an impact until it happens to you or someone you’re close to.

About 20 years ago, my hands and arms went numb. I couldn’t use them. I had been dealing with some pain in my neck, but I had never connected the two. It turns out they were connected—literally. So I had surgery on my neck, a fusion of four vertebrae.

After surgery, I was once again able to use my hands and arms, but my neck still hurt. My doctor prescribed OxyContin.

Image: Mark Raeker and his wife, Sheila Mark Raeker and his wife, Sheila

The years went by. I kept getting more and more doses every year.

Then about seven years ago, I slipped and landed on the side of my face. That sure didn’t do my neck any good. My doctor started prescribing pain patches. I was still taking the pills.

It was taking more and more meds to deal with my pain, and they just didn’t work anymore.

About a year ago, I decided enough was enough. I wanted to get off pain pills. So one day I quit. Cold turkey.

I had been on opioids for 13 years. That’s a long time to one day say, “I quit.”

A week and a half later, I was so sick you wouldn’t believe it. My body was withdrawing from not having that medication.

I went to the HealthPartners Pain Clinic, and was lucky enough to work with Dr. Anne Pylkas.

She put me on Suboxone to take away the painkiller withdrawal symptoms.

Suboxone comes in strips. I started by taking one and a half strips a day. Now it’s been a year and I’m down to a third of a strip every day. I hope to be completely done by Christmas.

It’s amazing how much better I feel. And I credit it all to the Pain Clinic and Dr. Pylkas. She’s more than a doctor. She really listens to you, and she understands what’s going on. She’s a lifesaver.

I still have the pain. It’s not going away. But it hasn’t gotten any worse and I think I can handle it now.

Image: Mark Raeker in his car

Anything is better than where I was.

In fact, I’ve never felt better in my life.

Mark Raeker, 60, is married with two grown children. He was in sales for 45 years before losing his job. He’s currently looking for work in sales or customer service.
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